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Md. corrections chief praises Williamsport's use of inmate labor

August 06, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WILLIAMSPORT -- Gary D. Maynard, the state's public safety and correctional services secretary, saw firsthand Tuesday the benefits of inmate labor.

Maynard visited two places in Williamsport that are maintained, in part, by state prisoners.

During his roughly 18 months as secretary, Maynard has urged local governments to ask the state for inmate work crews. Few do.

"I have to keep hammering," he said at Byron Memorial Park, one of two spots he and other department members visited with Mayor James G. McCleaf II and Councilman Jeff Cline.

Williamsport apparently is the only municipality in the state to ask for a daily inmate crew in response to Maynard's offer, department officials have said.

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Other municipalities have asked for occasional inmate help on projects.

Washington County, however, has used state inmate crews for years, well before Maynard became secretary.

Three inmates from Maryland Correctional Training Center south of Hagerstown -- Chuck Raikes of Hagerstown, Phillip Wilson of Baltimore and Bruce Worrell of Washington, D.C. -- spend each weekday in Williamsport.

They mow grass, paint curbs, clear brush, collect trash and whatever else needs to be done that day.

Byron Memorial Park and River View Cemetery, which Maynard also visited Tuesday, are two of the inmates' regular work areas. They are supervised by town employees.

McCleaf said the inmates take care of tasks that town employees might not get to.

"We would have to hire four, five additional people and we really don't have the money to do that," McCleaf said.

"I wish other cities and other counties had your vision of what could be done," Maynard told McCleaf at Williamsport Town Hall.

The inmates have said they like being out of prison during the day and learning skills that will help them when they're released.

Maynard said there might be other benefits, too, such as learning to appreciate history while cleaning up a graveyard.

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